Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
One thing I appreciate and count on with Astrid Amara is her feel good holiday stories. They aren’t necessarily memorable but I always enjoy reading them and I specifically look for this author during the holidays. I think she’s one of the better holiday-orientated authors. The settings always feel genuine and end on a positive note. Sweet and Sour is no exception. It’s cute, entertaining, and has just a little bit of sex sprinkled through the pages. I had some issues with the story and didn’t think it was perfect but it was still exactly what I wanted to read when I choose SaS. So for that I’d easily recommend it.
Miles has taken over his parents’ pickle shop and expanded it to add a deli. This is the first Hanukkah that he’ll be on his own, but he has his boyfriend Itai with him to help celebrate. Things aren’t turning out as Miles’ had hoped though. Itai is always busy with his internet business and Miles is drowning as the store gets busy. An expected help comes to Miles in the form of an undercover detective, Nic. The sparks and pickles fly in more than one way.
The plot is pretty straight forward with Miles and Nic become close as Nic works in the deli under the guise of looking for a drug dealer. Miles is dealing with his failing relationship with Itai, which keeps Nic and Miles from jumping into bed right away. I found that the whole of the story worked better than these individual parts though. I liked the story and enjoyed reading it but I thought the Itai plot was weak and unnecessary. Itai is written as an uncaring, disconnected boyfriend from the very beginning. I thought he didn’t even need to be in the story. Miles doesn’t grow or change through the breakup, he merely moves on to someone else with whom he has more compatibility. It’s easy, seamless, and mostly forgettable.
Likewise the subplot of Nic looking for a drug dealer does give the story some spice and a reason or Nic to be in the deli. Otherwise I guess it wouldn’t make much sense or be too easy. The final resolution is silly and eye rolling but it’s in good fun so I didn’t mind too much. I just through the focus on Nic and Miles was enough to hold my attention. The two men are well developed and have a down-to-earth sensibility about them. They’re obviously compatible and work well together. They seem like an every day couple, which I liked.
The writing is very typical for this author. It’s clear and concise while still evoking images and feelings. I loved how the sense of holiday and tradition came through in the story. This quality doesn’t always translate well in books, even themed ones, so I always appreciate Amara’s ability to interject a down home and holiday feel. There’s comedy, love, a quick moving plot, and a bit of sex to keep everything interesting. A great holiday read and easy one to recommend.